In this series about fiction, Sebastian Faulks is not only going to look at great works for British fiction from the past 300 years but more about the characters that we have come to know and love. It is said that these characters will “live beyond their own time and beyond the page” (Faulks, Faulks on Fiction). That and with the current creation of the adaptation, these characters will have morphed into a world bigger then they or their authors could possibility imagine.
In the first episode, “The Hero” Faulks looks at 6 characters from different novels that portray a different role of the hero in literature. Each of them must face a form identity crisis, moral struggle, and social acceptance that they must transform themselves into their own hero. The books are as follows:
– Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; The man Robinson Crusoe is stuck on a deserted island and must become a hero in order to survive on every level, from physical survival to mental and emotional survival of being on one’s own. This is the basics of being a hero to yourself; overcoming the odds against you.
– Tom Jones or its full heading The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding; Tom is a man who must deal with all the negatives of his personality; being a drunk, lustful, scandalous, but with all those negative qualities has a heart of gold. He wants the best for those around him, and always puts the well-being of others before himself. He is selfless even though he tends to get into a lot of trouble, which is his folly. He has a difficult time controlling all the vices of the world and his good heart is over shadowed by those vices.
– Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: Becky Sharp, who is the hero of our story to be the unusual candidate due to the fact that she is not only a woman but uses the purist form of ambition to get her way. She is more focused on getting money, and gaining position in society than anything else in the world. She will have what she wants and there will be nothing to get in her way. Becky uses sex to gain position over men, not for love, but mainly for their pocket books. She is a rare breed of hero since the reader is fighting for her to win the things that she desires and not scolding her for her actions. Society would have looked down upon a woman such as this but, like I said, this is a rare condition.
– Sherlock Holmes mysteries By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Sherlock Holmes is sometimes viewed as being the “novels first superhero” (Faulk, Faulk on Fiction). He has all the potential for it; he fights crime with his wit, genius, and excellent observational skills. He is there to help those less fortunate than himself; to fight for justice, like a superhero. But his downfall is being obsessive or overly obsessive; especially when it comes to a crime that he is trying to solve and he allows it to take over his life, till it is solved. This is one of those rare cases that the character had out grown the author in a sense and Sherlock Holmes, to this day, fascinates people with his genius and to see what we wouldn’t or couldn’t.
– 1984 by George Orwell: The character Winston Smith lives in an era where everything is monitored by the totalitarian state known as Big Brother and the Party. He is a hero is a sense that he does things that go against Big Brother. He is heroic that he writes and keeps a diary which allows him to have free thinking; to say and write whatever he is thinking and to have opinions without the Party knowing. He also makes the great move of falling in love; an emotion that the Party strictly forbids since it gives people freedom to be an individual and not part of a cluster. He goes against the regime that holds him down in turn becoming an individual; yes he may not have made a different to Big Brother but he makes one to all the readers of 1984 and so that we do not convert if we ever become a Big Brother state.
–Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis: Jim is a typical university professor who hates his job and to escape from his boring, dull existence he reaches out to something that was look down upon in the 1950’s; comedy. He uses comedy to rebel against those who are trying to tell him to be a certain way. He has the “essential angst of existentialism but in a British way” (Faulks, Faulks on Fiction). He refuses to be like one of the crowd and his sense of humor, mainly his funny facial expressions, allow him to have an escape of a life of normalcy.
–Money by Martin Amis: The hero or lack of hero is named John Self who is a famous English director who moves to New York to begin working in the movies. The problem that John must face is that he doesn’t have any self-control when he comes to the indulgence of American life. He is like Tom Jones in a sense that he doesn’t know when to stop but he lacks the heart that Tom possesses. He doesn’t care about anyone else but him. This would seem very anti-hero to us but the reader wants him to change and hope that he does, we will still root for him even if he isn’t rooting for himself.
I am enjoying the program so far. I have only read a few of these novels so it was a bit difficult to follow when you haven’t read them yourself. I am intrigued by them and when I am finished with the mountain of books before me, which I need to be read, then I shall try out these other ones. I have also put the Wikipedia site for each of the books so that you can get a basic plot for each novel.
– Robinson Crusoe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Crusoe
– Vanity Fair: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanity_Fair_(novel)
– Sherlock Holmes Mysteries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes
– Lucky Jim: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucky_Jim
I hope everyone had a pleasant weekend and they have a good week! Have you been watching the program? What do think of it so far? Have you read any of the books above?
Next week: The Lover; BBC 2 Saturday 9pm. I am so excited about this one since there is usually a lover, of some kind, in the majority of the novels that I read.